I'm part of a research team studying moderation on Mastodon, and we have a survey for devs!

Hi, all –
I’m part of a research team who are studying moderation practices on Mastodon. We’re interested specifically in how developers think about moderation. This is obviously a pressing topic these days.

We have a survey and are seeking out responses from Mastodon developers:


We know your time is valuable – we hope our work helps the project. If you have questions, see our contact information on the first page of that link.

  • Rob
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Hi @robertwgehl, welcome to the SocialHub. It’s a great pleasure to have you aboard!

Such research is indeed needed. We’re certainly interested in hearing more about it.

I have an ethical issue with your survey though, especially with the incentive:

Will I receive payment or other incentives?

Yes. $20 Amazon gift cards will be distributed to the first 75 people who participate in this study.

Participants will be redirected to another survey where they can input an email address to receive the Amazon gift cards (not attached to participant responses).

It might look OK where you come from, but from where I sit, I saw the fortune of Amazon double during COVID-19 times while most of the world population was submitted to unheard of bad treatment. Being one of the GAFAM – which I prefer calling the GMAFIA (with the addition of IBM), Amazon remains a paragon of centralization and unfair extraction of value with bad worker treatments. I don’t know for others, but this is not the kind of incentive that appeal to me as a Fediverse netizen. Coming from you, whose work is renowned on critical studies of communication technology, it sounds dissonant.

Would you like to share more about your research incentives and where you’re headed?

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@how I actually share your concern. We discussed this at length. Unfortunately, the only way we could implement any remuneration while maintaining anonymity was through Amazon gift cards. The problem we face is the world of survey research software is dominated by such corporations. And, we’re both new to our respective research universities, so we’re reliant on existing infrastructure.

I do plan on building out alternatives to Qualtrics in the not-too-distant future, but the time is not now, I’m afraid.

@how you say dissonant. Yes – that’s a good word for it, by the way. I do my damnedest to stick to alternatives, but I can’t win 'em all! :slight_smile:

Also, I did’t recognize your username. Hello, hellekin!

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I will certainly take the time to complete your survey anyway.

@how This is very much appreciated. We want to recruit developers to the survey, then admins, then users, on the theory that moderation is a multi-faceted thing. But recruiting devs is the most challenging.

I’m sure a number of people here are interested, especially with the recent events. There have been a number of discussions on the topic of moderation lately.

As the fediverse is comprised of software including but not limited to Mastodon which have radically different approaches to moderation, are you interested in hearing from non-Mastodon devs as well?


Hi, kaninni –
In general, absolutely. I have a large project in mind focusing on the fediverse. Feel free to take the survey! But it is geared towards Mastodon. This is simply because we have to focus on something specific for the purposes of a research paper. (I think the fediverse is worth a book!)

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Hi there,

just curious if we were yet in contact:
One EU advisor asked me about Content Moderation at mastodon and one person offering hosting for overblocked people within an AWS grant asked as well the same.

But if not, I will do the survey.

I’m not familiar with survey software, but have you looked at Liberaforms?

Let’s build this common horizon together by practicing explicit digital ethics : throw the GAFAM out of our spaces and projects, use LiberaForms! Or any other libre form software like https://formtools.org https://www.drupal.org/project/webform https://framaforms.org https://www.limesurvey.org https://ohmyform.com


Nice find, @how. I created a topic at HTC some time ago Researchers should use privacy-respecting survey tools!, because of how often people posted Google Forms based surveys. I will add this project, and the others mentioned in it, to that thread.

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Just please note that the focus of funding for mastodon and the focus of research for mastodon, just caring for the biggest player, will lead to the same pitfalls than with monopolies.
People think, the fediverse === mastodon while we are very diverse projects and people !
see the Talks from

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@Sebastian Oh, I agree. But let me tell you about problems I face in researching and writing and communicating about these topics. I can write a paper that has a word limit of, say, 7K words. That sounds like a lot, but I have to go into detail. And my audience is not versed in technical details. So even if I focus on Mastodon and use that as a vehicle to talk about federation in general, I still have to spend 1/3 of the paper explaining basic topics. I can’t get to the analysis until that point.

Compare that with the vast majority of social media research out there, which focuses on Twitter or Instagram. None of them have to explain what those are – they just assume their audience knows.

So I’m thinking of using Mastodon as a “character” to represent federation. It’s not ideal, but it’s easier for me to go from “you know about Twitter, here’s Mastodon, and it’s federated, which means decentralized” than it is for me to go from network topologies to federation to federated social media.

I hope that’s clear… let me know if I can clarify.

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@how I’m trying to get involved in a project that was using Google Forms and is switching to LiberaForms so I can get fluent with those. The project I’m speaking of is comprised of pretty hardcore FLOSS people, but even they had to use Google Forms at one point.

Would it be useful to write a Fediverse Primer that you could refer to instead?

The problem with focusing on Mastodon is that Mastodon started as a Twitter replica. Soon, many followed suite and created replicas of whatever. But what is interesting in the Fediverse is the next generation of software: generic servers, more versatile clients. These offer a much larger view of what the Fediverse is, that centralized services cannot offer, as they slowly lose the focus on “the app” in order to integrate actual practices that are not necessarily covered by corporations – especially because free software can express itself better in the Fediverse context where users are closer to developers and can therefore inform development beyond developer-speaks-user-uses.

Probably not hardcore enough :slight_smile: Among my friends, it’s not even a question to not use GMAFIA. I know that prominent GNU and FSF people have said publicly in Brussels that “it’s OK to work on free software on your free time” and they were flown by Google. But I don’t think they’re right thinking that, and I even think they’re very wrong talking from their respected place such things to young developers who do not have the perspective to handle such complex political situation and will instead replicate what they see working. We must show examples, even if it’s harder, because any refusal to comply will bring things into question, while any acceptance will contribute to normalize the unacceptable.


That diversity of applications under development can be seen on the ActivityPub Application Watchlist (which is in turn input to Fediverse Party). Also implementing ActivityPub as an interoperability protocol has merit all on its own, even when not federating with the broader Fediverse (but instead between single application instances, or within a restricted domain). See for more info on this: Positioning ActivityPub: De-Emphasize “Being Part of the Fediverse” as primary USP.

Alternatively or in addition to what @how proposes, you might add a compressed paragraph that conveys this concept, and follow with “… the remainder of this paper will focus primarily on Microblogging, provided by Pleroma and Mastodon […]” or something like that. Pleroma is interesting, as it implements the full AP specification with Client-to-Server API (C2S) support as well, where Mastodon has a custom API for this.

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This… all of this… this is why I need to write a book, not papers. I need the space to explain. Thanks, all!


Take your time, you’re welcome. :slight_smile:

No, for a journalist writing very long stories about Climate refugees that is perfectly clear then.
I had a hard laugh when one week ago, funding people told me to answer their questions in 3-5 sentences.

btw, re. “decentralized”;
Do you know the comparison paper of Twitter Bluesky which was just published?